Friday, December 14, 2012

“Island in the Sky” Blink and You Miss It: Mickey’s Mistake?

Aw, c’mon! You knew we weren’t through with Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse comics classic “Island in the Sky”!

We’re NEVER completely through with “Island in the Sky”! That’s just how darned great it is… Especially when it’s now ours to enjoy in Fantagraphics’ wonderful new book: “Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse 'House of the Seven Haunts' by Floyd Gottfredson”.

The subset of posts I call “Blink and You Miss It” has always applied to a moving on-screen image that may come and go so quickly that a superb joke or other observation is not realized by the viewer.

But, in this case (believe it or not), it applies to a static comic panel!

A panel I must have been “Blinking and Missing” on for 47 or so years – since I first read the story then-called “Mickey Mouse and his Sky Adventure” in the 1965 Gold Key reprint comic pictured below.

At the story’s climax, Mickey has just subdued his adversary Peg Leg / Black / Big Bad / Just Plain Pete, and saves Dr. Einmug’s floating island at literally the last second by following the doctor’s explicit instructions:

Pull Lever ‘S’ FORWARD, Lever ‘K’ BACKWARD, and open Value ‘Q’!”

Read it again, folks… just for effect:

Pull Lever ‘S’ FORWARD, Lever ‘K’ BACKWARD, and open Value ‘Q’!”

"S Forward", "K Backward"... That's what the man SAID!  ...He SAID that!

And, in what is surely the Mouse’s most exciting and dramatic moment to that point (and maybe since) – amid massive electronic crackling and as many atmospheric pyrotechnics as Floyd Gottfredson could fit into his newspaper-standard panels – Mickey does just that!

…Or, DOES HE?  (Click to Enlarge!)

Sorry for the less than perfect resolution of this Internet scan of that moment… but isn’t Mickey “…pulling Lever ‘S’ BACKWARD and Lever ‘K’ FORWARD, as he opens Value ‘Q’?!”

…Well, ISN’T HE?

So, how does the thing stay up?                                                                                                          

It’s not even the perspective of the image! He’s really doing the REVERSE of what he was instructed to do!

After all those years of reading this classic tale – in EVERY ONE OF THESE FORMATS – I never noticed it until the Fantagraphics version!

It’s a good thing that Dr. Einmug was a little bit more of the “absent minded professor” than he ever let on!

And, as I’ve become fond of saying: “Blink and You Miss It”!
Joost walk BACKWARD, Mickey, and you'll be okay!


Chuck Munson said...

Hmmm, I don't know Joe - maybe my eyesight is failing further in my advanced age, but it looked to me like the correct tags were on the correct levers. I need to grab my copy when I can and drag out the magnifying glass!

Joe Torcivia said...

Now, I thought some might disagree, Chuck… and that’s why I posted it.

I never said the TAGS are on the wrong levers, but that Mickey does the reverse of what he was instructed to do.

“Pull Lever ‘S’ FORWARD, Lever ‘K’ BACKWARD, and open Value ‘Q’!”

Get your copy out, or enlarge the (admittedly low-quality) scan and see that Mickey is pulling Lever “S” TOWARD him!

Extend your arm fully and make a fist. Move that fist TOWARD you. You are moving that fist BACKWARD – not FORWARD!

Simultaneously, Mickey is kicking Lever “K” AWAY from him.

Now, move that same fist AWAY from you. You are moving that fist FORWARD – not BACKWARD!

If you are in a car – and another car IN YOUR SAME LANE moves in a similar direction to Lever “S” (TOWARD you) – it is moving BACKWARD… and you’d better hope it stops before it hits you!

If you are in a car – and another car IN YOUR SAME LANE moves in a similar direction to Lever “K” (AWAY from you) – it is moving FORWARD!

…Let’s not even THINK about whether Mickey is turning Value “Q” clockwise or counterclockwise!

Chris Barat said...


Wouldn't PULLING Lever S forward involve pulling it towards oneself, since one is bringing the lever CLOSER to oneself? If one were PUSHING it forward, then one would move it away from oneself. In that respect, when Mickey pulls S towards himself, he's obeying Einmug's orders.

The Lever K instructions, however, do seem to be mixed up. Einmug should have told Mickey to "PUSH lever K FORWARD", that is, away from Mickey. Perhaps Einmug simply assumed that Mickey would hear the words "forward" and "backward" in conjunction with one another and thus simply do the opposite of what he'd done with Lever S.


joecab said...

You said it yourself Joe: the whole thing is "S" backward :P

Joe Torcivia said...

"S" backward? Gotta love that!

VERY Clever! You know, Joe C, there just might be a future in dialoguing comics for you… IF there were any comics left to dialogue! (Alas!)

Joe Torcivia said...

…And, Chris:

As I said to Chuck above, that’s why I posted this. Because you’re also correct, and I wanted to see how different readers – and I know my readers would very likely have a long-standing familiarity with this story, in one or more of its various forms – would interpret this!

And, honestly, while lingering on the magnificent Fantagraphics version of this tale (…Have I said that enough? …No, I don’t think I CAN say that enough!), it was the first time the thought occurred to me!

It really comes down to how one interprets and / or processes the instructions vs. Gottfredson’s drawn image of the action. BTW, one of my all-time favorite sequences in ALL of comics (…and, for me, THAT’S saying something!)

Consider, also that Mickey, himself, had to interpret these life-and-death orders through Einmug’s considerable accent, and act under the most extreme duress.

I wonder if it ever occurred to Gottfredson to include just a perfectly “human” instant of hesitation on Mickey’s part on interpreting and executing Einmug’s instructions. At the very least, it would have provided one additional (and very melodramatic) strip!

…We’re still open for more thoughts and interpretations!

Joe Torcivia said...


Additional thought: In the old airplane flying cliché, wouldn’t “Pull BACK on the stick!” mean to move it TOWARD YOU?!

Thus, moving “the stick” AWAY from you would be to move it FORWARD?

And that IS the opposite of what Mickey does, though in your interpretation, he’s done it right.

That covers the “Push / Pull” aspect of it (which you argue convincingly) better than my “fist example” and leaves the matter open for additional debate!

Ain't all this fannish stuff grand!

Chuck Munson said...

Hmmm... I got an image of a Doctor Doolittle pushme-pullyou in my head for some "inexplicable" reason that I just shake. Any takers on which way Mickey is spinning the wheel?

Joe Torcivia said...

Um… He’s spinning the wheel… AROUND?

Of that, at least, we can be sure!